It is silly season, but even so I’m surprised at how the chugging issue has taken off. It’s got a fair chunk of coverage via the media and generated a rather pleasing set of supportive emails and messages for me.
What is absolutely bizarre, however, has been the response of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Authority (PRFA) who seem to have what can best be described as a bunker mentality. They are currently pushing the line that it’s all a set-up. In an article in Third Sector (registration required) the PRFA accused Wandsworth and Westminster of conspiring to orchestrate a campaign against chuggers:
Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the PFRA, said he suspected the two Tory-run councils were orchestrating a campaign against street fundraising.
“I suspect that formally or informally Westminster and Wandsworth have been conferring,” he said. A spokeswoman for Westminster denied this.
I’ll deny it too. The timing of our press release had far more to do with the fact I spent most of last week in Lincolnshire with a very poor internet connection and only approved it this week. There’s no recent mention of chuggers on Westminster Council’s website and I imagine they told journalists about their plans to take advantage of the publicity.
Perhaps the PRFA don’t realise two councils independently expressing concern – supported by huge numbers of residents – might actually be a sign their chuggers are a real problem and councils, quite rightly, want to do something about it.
Rather than portraying themselves as the victims, they should be thinking about the thousands of people who are victims of hassle, harassment and haranguing from chuggers on our high streets every day.